Constituting settler colonialism: the ‘boundary problem’, liberal equality, and settler state-making in Australia’s Northern Territory
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Between Indigenous sovereignty and settler colonisation lie contested frontiers. I suggest Australia’s Northern Territory is one such frontier. This paper explores the 1998 settler campaign for Northern Territory statehood, the key to which was the framing of a constitution designed to eliminate Indigenous autonomy and empower settlers. I make three contributions. First, I showcase how settler colonialism is metapolitical, implicating political theory’s notorious ‘boundary problem’ in an effort to reconstitute Indigenous territories as ‘ours’ and Indigenous demoi as ‘us’. Second, I show that settlers may wage this metapolitical campaign using individual rights, to challenge as illiberal, and thus de-constitute, Indigenous demotic and territorial boundaries. Finally, I show that when Indigenous peoples resist by seeking to constitutionally entrench their own, alternate answers to the ‘boundary question’, there arises a dilemma over whether settler rights or Indigenous boundaries are the rightful ‘subject of justice’.